Five and a half years ago, I established Exemplar Strategic Communications to provide a new strategic vision for education organizations seeking to break through the white noise and have their voices heard. Building off the the groundbreaking public engagement work done by Dan Yankelovich and Public Agenda, Exemplar focused on outcomes-based approaches to PR and public affairs, seeking to not just promote an issue, but to actually change hearts, minds, and behaviors as we improve the public education tapestry across the nation.
This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education formally announced the latest round of the Race to the Top competition. After directing significant dollars to states to drive wholesale school improvement efforts and to assessment consortia to develop new tests around Common Core State Standards, ED is back focusing on individual buildings and classrooms.
Student assessment has been under assault for years now. And that assault usually begins with the attack on “high-stakes” tests.
Parents oppose closing low-performing schools, reject the notion of moving resources from traditional public schools to charters, and are resistant to extending the school day, according to a new survey to be released by the American Federation of Teachers today, and previewed by Lyndsey Layton in today’s Washington Post.
- 61% oppose closing low-performing schools and reassigning students to a different school
- More than 75% oppose reducing compensation for teachers or cutting resources for the classroom while increasing spending on charter schools
- 58% did not approve of officials lengthening the school day (while a third thought it was a good idea)
- 56% oppose giving tax dollars to families to pay for private school tuition (better known as vouchers), while 41% approve
- A majority say too much learning in the classroom has been sacrificed in order to accommodate state tests
Decades of top-down edicts, mass school closures, privatization and test fixation with sanctions, instead of support, haven’t moved the needle — not in the right direction, at least … You’ve heard their refrain, competition, closings, choice. Underlying that is a belief that disruption is good and stability is bad.
A few years ago, we had a number of states that looked to increase the “drop-out age” in their states, under the premise that if we keep kids in high school until the age of 17, we would increase the odds that they would complete their k-12 experience and earn their high school diploma.
“Before 1890, public
education in America was viewed as an opportunity—not a legal obligation.”
“Then came compulsory
education. Our State began requiring that all parents must send their children
to public school for fear that some children would not be educated because of
an irresponsible parent. Since that day, the proverbial pendulum has swung in
the wrong direction.”
“Our teachers and schools
have been forced to become surrogate parents, expected to do everything from
behavioral counseling, to providing adequate nutrition, to teaching sex
education, as well as ensuring full college and career readiness.”
“Actively engaged parents
sometimes feel that the public school system, and even some teachers, are
insensitive to the unique needs and challenges of their children and are
unwilling or unable to give their child the academic attention they need
because of an overburdened education system, obligated by law to be all things
to all people.”
“We need to restore the
expectation that parents are primarily responsible for the educational success
of their own children. That begins with restoring the parental right to decide
if and when a child will go to public school. In a country founded on the
principles of personal freedom and unalienable rights, no parent should be
forced by the government to send their child to school under threat of fines
and jail time.”
As chairman of a local school board, I was amazed when a constituent was alarmed that our teachers were getting full-time benefits, but were only working “nine months a year.” Anyone who thinks teaching isn’t a full time job has clearly never lived with an educator.
- Make a difference
- Job satisfaction
- Salaries and benefits
- Summers off
How do we use public education to empower? While we use the word “empowerment” a great deal in the educational trenches, there seems to be little discussion or understanding of what it actually means and how it truly applies to so many of our engagements.
People make wild claims about what other countries do. So I looked at the high achieving countries … And guess what? They do a lot to promote equity. They ensure that children are well taken care of … Even when families have low incomes, there are safety nets to ensure that children are housed, fed, have health care, and access to good early learning opportunities. They fund schools equitably. They invest heavily in well-prepared teachers and school leaders for all schools.
Today’s lesson is about timing. More specifically, it is about how one times the release of announcements so that the media and key stakeholders take notice and hear the actual message that folks want to deliver.
Testing. For some, it is the ultimate measure of public education, the rubric by which we determine if our nation, state, district, school, teacher, and student is making the grade.